One thing that some “pundits” have missed – and its the same thing that happened with VP8STI – South Sandwich – and that is that West Coast Signals will be coming in from their West – and NOT their Northwest. Why does this matter? Because coming in from the West, we are mostly an all water path, and we skirt around those mountains and the grade up the hill to the Northwest. I distinctly remember VP8STI having really great signals – and I think they also had the same situation – our signals came in at their West, also NOT Northwest.
Even a quarter wave vertical on top of the glacier at their end – could be a great antenna – it is that perfect vertical on an island surrounded by salt water situation.
While the news about their location and antennas (on the Low Bands) isn’t great for the West Coast, with even just a few sunspots – we might do alright. The Vernal Equinox turns out to be a good time propagation wise. And best yet – the West Coast will get prime Grayline conditions on several bands. And right now the SSN is 28 – so pray this holds out a while – we Need a Miracle Every Day for this one.
There might be a Long Path opening on 20M, but my bet is all Short Path, and on 40 – 17M, maybe even 15M. Remember, during the Equinox (Vernal and Autumnal), special conditions do happen. I worked ZS8M with basically the same conditions on a very clear “spotlight grayline” condition back in September 2011 – when we were just coming out of the last cycle’s long and terrible bottom of Cycle 23.
Its nice to see 17 and 15M as possibilities – this is happening because it is NOT the middle of Winter – but Spring. Given that their location and antennas won’t be positioned great for the West Coast – the “consolation prize” is that we get two higher bands that when available for a DXpedition – prove more “productive” than 160 or 80M. But make sure you monitor all times and all paths – the Equinox Times are usually “magic”.
So – given that this is a bottom of the cycle operation – for the West Coast – it turns out to be a good thing that they didn’t go earlier as planned.
Here is another “trick” I’ve learned. If you’ve ever been to my QTH, you’ll know I’m in a bowl. Visitors offer their condolences, but I’ve still made Honor Roll and even DXCC on Top Band. The secret is knowing that for 20 – 30 minutes during gray line, higher angles are supported. This means that if 3Y0I has low horizontal antennas, or if there are any mountains in the way, it is still possible to hear them – but you better pay attention – these openings sometimes last 10 minutes max.
Oh, and 30M sometimes has it’s own magic, especially this time of the year.
My advice – antenna, antenna, antenna and then add some power after that. My bet is also CW, but for those who like FT8 – that could add an avenue for your success. I’ll stick to CW – the exchange (for me) is a lot faster and more enjoyable.
I have just requested that the team please carve out some West Coast Only time – we will have only a few select times to work them – but if these predictions hold up – then it might be a little better than I had expected, actually.
I think this is probably good enough for a prediction, and remember to do a little sunspot dance – and include a safe landing and climb up that glacier – they have to be able to set up, and the weather shows high winds every day but with some breaks – so this sure seems like the hardest entity on earth to activate.
Godspeed to the team.